Wingless Wasp

By William T. Hathaway

Wingless Wasp

Because of its structural appearance, this female wasp is known as the “velvet ant.” The densely hairy body with conspicuously red and black color patterns allow for easy identification. An inch-long body length certainly makes it unlikely to be any local type of ant; besides, the pedicel (or slight constriction) between the abdomen and thorax is different from that of local ants.

Females of this species are wingless and crawl about rapidly. If disturbed, they take on a defensive posture, fiercely fighting while buzzing loudly. Female velvet ants can inflict a painful sting so severe that they have been called “Cow Killers.” Winged male adults are not capable of stinging. Both adult males and females roam about feeding on nectar. Females seek out bumblebee nests, and deposit their eggs, which develop into velvet ant larvae. In time, velvet ant larvae feed parasitically on bee larvae within the bumblebee nests — most likely, much to the distress of mother bumble bee; furthermore, it is an historical fact that these creatures were a bane to barefoot sharecroppers in times past. (See also “Red Warnings.”)


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